Irritated bumps that show up on a recently shaved area are known as ingrown hairs. Basically, these are hairs that have looped back and grown into the skin rather than straight above it. The swelling is caused by irritation as the body attempts to get rid of the hair.
Small ingrown hairs usually resolve within a week. In fact, you may even not realize they are there. Complications arise when dealing with infected, long, chronic or severe ingrown hairs. In most cases, these ones require some form of medical attention.
Long, infected, cystic, severe and chronic ingrown hair
It is not that ingrown hairs can officially be categorized differently. It is just that the condition manifests differently depending on a couple of factors:
Long ingrown hair
Long ingrown hair develops when curled hair grows much deeper into the skin. This is common in individuals whose hair is thick or very coarse. See long ingrown hair on penile shaft pictures for illustrations.
Infected ingrown hair
Staph bacteria naturally thrive on the skin. The bacteria do not cause any problems on the skin. If there occur cracks or breaks on the skin, the bacteria may enter and cause staph infection. When severely infected, ingrown hair can become very painful and really bad smelling due to the presence of pus. It may also manifest other signs of infection, such as being warm and tender to the touch.
Cystic huge ingrown hair
If you have a huge ingrown hair, it probably is cystic in nature and formation. Sometimes, clogged skin pores can block hair from ever reaching the skin surface. This means that the blocked hair will be forced to grow into the walls of the follicle. The result is irritation, which occurs in follicles much deeper in the skin. With time and more irritation, a cystic bump will form in the affected follicle. These types of ingrown hairs are a bit harder to get rid of.
Severe and chronic ingrown hair
Severe and chronic ingrown hair are almost the same thing. Severe cases occur when extensive skin regions are affected. Chronic cases develop when the bumps and inflammation that results fail to resolve with time. This is commonly seen in ingrown beard hair. Normally, ingrown hairs will disappear in 2-4 weeks. Chronic ones persist far longer than this period. This is normally caused by repetitive shaving on already affected regions.
How to remove long ingrown hair
When it comes to how to remove long ingrown hair, you can choose to do it at home or get it done medically. The process involves a minor surgical operation to release the ingrown hair.
At home, you will require a sharp needle or you can use tweezers. The advantage of tweezers over a needle is that it can be used to pluck the hair entirely from the follicle.
Before the minor operation, wash the affected area with medicated soap and warm water. A hot shower will do the trick just as effectively. The idea is to soften the skin as well as remove bacteria from the area. You can alternatively rub a cotton ball which has been soaked in rubbing alcohol onto the area.
Have some rubbing alcohol rubbed on the tip of the removal tool of choice. Gently prick the swollen area and slide the tip of your removal tool underneath the ingrown hair. The hair should tug out with slight pulling. To avoid infection, apply antibiotic ointment to the treated area. Tea tree oil or aloe vera can be used, alternatively. They are excellent home remedies with which to fight bacteria.
If you wish to entirely get rid of the long ingrown hair, wait for about 3-4 days before plucking it out. This should allow the affected area enough time to heal. If you are to pluck the hair immediately, the scab that is bound to form after may keep a newly growing hair from breaking through the skin. When plucking, use the tweezers to hold the hair as close to the base as you can. Pluck it with one strong pull to avoid breaking. This is recommendable when removing the longest hair.
Note that this procedure works when the ingrown hair is close enough to skin surface that it can be seen. For those with dark hair, it appears as a dark spot at the center of the inflamed follicle. If the hair is not visible, keep exfoliating and warm compressing.
How to treat infected ingrown hair
The only difference between an ingrown hair that is infected and one that isn’t is that the former has been invaded by bacteria. This results in ingrown hair pus. When mildly infected, antibacterial creams or ointments will be effective enough. Severe infections on the other hand require prescribed oral antibiotics.
It is also recommended that you keep the affected area clean with medicated soap and fresh water. This will discourage staph bacteria from breeding around the affected areas. Other than antibacterial medications, you can use home remedies such as witch hazel, tea tree oil, aloe vera and apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar should not be used on broken or sensitive skin. Ensure to learn the steps on how to remove ingrown hair with specific home remedy of choice before use.
How to treat severe and chronic ingrown hair
When it comes to how to treat severe and chronic ingrown hairs, the self-removal option through minor surgery is almost out of the running. It is quite impractical to individually operate on multiple ingrown hairs.
Below are the options that may work:
Use of anti-inflammation medications
Anti-inflammation medications simply work by reducing swelling. With time, the ingrown hair will be exposed and will probably break through the skin. Hydrocortisone cream is the most popular of these medications. The good thing about corticosteroids is that they also reduce itchiness. Most people end up scratching affected areas. Scratching increases irritation and may also introduce bacteria. You can buy them over the counter. For very severe cases or how to get rid of an ingrown hair bump deep in the skin, your doctor can administer injections.
Use of retinoids
Retinoids are forms of vitamin A. They work by sloughing off dead skin cells. This will not only prevent severe ingrown hairs but also reducing risk of scarring. Retinoids require a medical prescription.
Sometimes, infection can spread to other ingrown hairs. This is very common in people with chronic ingrown hairs. Antibiotics play a very important role in not only stopping the spread of infection but also treating a looming one.
Although ingrown hairs are not as painful as to cause sleepless nights and so on, they can be quite painful when extensive areas are affected. Pain relievers may be helpful in combating the pain, especially after minor removal surgeries.
These are acids that get rid of hair for some time. They weaken the keratin that makes hair strong and coarse. The results are that the hair will fall out. But since the acids don’t affect follicles, new hairs will appear in the treated areas after a while.
Laser hair removal
This is a permanent hair removal method. It is very effective in treating chronic ingrown hair under skin. When used, follicles are afterwards unable to produce hair.
This is yet another permanent method to remove hair. An electric current is used to destroy hair follicles. Without hair, it is only logical that ingrown hairs will be gone for good. This method is a bit expensive but a good option when dealing with ingrown hair on inner thigh and other body regions where hair is almost of no use.
Using natural remedies to treat severe and infected ingrown hairs
This is a very popular natural remedy. It requires that you soak a thick piece of cloth in hot water, wring it and cover the affected area with the same. Leave the cloth in place for about 5 minutes. Repeat the treatment 3 times several times a day. For cystic and giant ingrown hair bumps, warm compress for 15 minutes 3 times a day.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has two main advantages. It can reduce inflammation and can also fight microbial infections. To be on the safest side, dilute it with water or carrier oil before direct application.
You probably have heard of this ancient herb. It works by soothing irritation and keeping bacteria at bay. To use it, apply the gel directly, leave to dry and rinse with water.
Honey is yet another of the famed ancient remedies that may help with ingrown hairs. Apply it directly on irritated or ingrown hairs prone to infection.
Prevention tips for severe ingrown hairs
Prevention mostly revolves around practicing good shaving skills and keeping your skin free from dead cell accumulation by exfoliating.
There is much you can learn about how to properly shave. The basics are that you shave along the grain, use shaving gel and avoid shaving too close to the skin. Exfoliating is very important especially just after or before shaving.
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